Have The Palestinians Scuppered The Latest Peace Talks?

Quell surprise; Middle Peace talks are going nowhere. But who’s to blame?

Bad news and acrimony seem to be the only tangible products coming out of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. At first, the Palestinians leaked updates, much to Israel’s chagrin. They complained to the Americans who persuaded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stop them, and they stopped. In recent weeks, however, there has been an increase in Palestinian extremist attacks, and Israeli retaliations. This makes it looks like the peace negotiations, like all the others, are doomed to failure.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due in Israel and the Palestinian Territories for talks with Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. In anticipation of this visit, however, the Israeli Housing Ministry has announced 1,728 new homes are to be built across the so-called Green Line, roughly Israel’s pre-Six Day War border with the West Bank. This follows the announcement last week, of the announcement to build 3,500 new homes in several Jewish East Jerusalem suburbs.  In response to these two announcements, the PA has warned the US that it is prepared to walk away from the talks in protest. Despite this, a senior American official has described the talks as “intensifying.”

Although the talks may be intensifying between the two sides, the biggest problem for both sides; is Hamas-run Gaza. They do not recognise the PA’s authority to negotiate with Israel, and do not recognise Israel’s right to exist. They call Israel the “Zionist State” and are committed to destroying Israel in their charter. As a result of this, and the talks, Hamas has, at least unofficially, started attacking Israel. There has been a tense ceasefire since he 2009 Gaza incursion, and Hamas has, at least claimed, to have held back all militant groups from attacking Israeli targets. The talks continue unabated, and although Hamas will claim credit if they end, the fault, ultimately will lie with the PA who, rather than talk about the announcement of new buildings, seem determined to end the talks.  On the other hand, if the plans succeed it could end up with Palestine run by the PA and Hamas-stan in Gaza.

Gilad_Shalit_on_Hamas_posterCentral to the latest round in tit-for-tat announcements now, is the private letter sent to Baron Rothschild by Arthur Balfour, the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration. In it, Balfour says that the British government would support a Jewish state in the Middle East after the war ended. Few, however, are now aware that a similar promise had been made to the Arabs in order to garner their support for the Arab Revolt, led by Lawrence of Arabia. It is the Balfour Declaration which gets the most publicity and the most coverage.

The PA called the declaration “a crime against humanity” and requested an apology from the British Government. Responding to this Netanyahu has said that this outlook shows the true nature of the Palestinian Authority. On Sunday, at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting he said “That declaration recognised the right of the Jewish people…to its own state in its historic homeland…the refusal to recognise us is the root of the conflict.” Part of this recognition would mean that the Palestinian people would need to renounce their “right of return” and, in the past, Israel has offered financial compensation which has always been rejected.

Despite reports to the contrary, no Israeli government has ever refused to recognise the Palestinians’ right to a state, as long they recognise Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence. No Israeli government has ever called for the wiping out of the Palestinians, as many Palestinians have said about Israel, and even Jews, over the years. Israel wants peace, but every time they take a step, the Palestinians force the process two steps back. Israel gave the PA some authority in the Oslo accords, the PA asked for more without living up to their commitments, but they got their way. ~Israel withdrew from Gaza, and militant attacks increased.

Israeli governments have grown tired of this and many in Israeli society see this as a last gasp attempt at a two-state solution. It can even appear that the Arab countries are growing ever-frustrated with the PA, with many starting, or increasing, non-governmental relations, and getting involved with the peace talks, which, beyond stating support, they have never actively done.

It is reported, that in exchange for releasing prisoners, Israel was allowed to make the announcements regarding the new settlement buildings. And although, this may be the case, the PA uses every opportunity, agreed or not, to lambast the Israeli negotiators, and even Netanyahu himself. They welcome back as heroes convicted terrorists and murderers, while at the same time criticise Israel for building on land that has nothing on it. The fact that the talks are continuing, however, is a good sign, and, hopefully whatever the outcome, there will be a true state of peace between Israel and her neighbours for the first time in its short existence.

Alex Patnick


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